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From left, a white king, black rook and queen, white pawn, black knight, and white bishop
Players 2
Setup time under one minute
Playing time 10–60 minutes, tournament games last up to 7 hours*
Rules complexity Medium
Strategy depth High
Random chance None
Skills required Tactics, Strategy
* Games by correspondence may last many months, while "blitz chess" games are even shorter than 10 minutes

Chess is an abstract strategy board game and mental sport for two players. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent's king. This occurs when the king is under immediate attack (in check) and there is no way to remove it from attack on the next move. Many variants and relatives of chess are played throughout the world. The most popular are xiangqi in China and shogi in Japan.<ref>D.Pritchard (1994). The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants. Games & Puzzles Publications. ISBN 0-9524-1420-1.</ref> The game described in this article is sometimes known as Western Chess or International Chess to distinguish it from other variants.<ref>An Introduction to International Chess. Retrieved 25 November 2006</ref>

Chess is one of the world's most popular board games ever; it is played both recreationally and competitively in clubs, tournaments, online, and by mail or e-mail (correspondence chess). Chess has been described not only as a game but also as an art, a science, and a sport. It is sometimes seen as an abstract war game; as a "mental martial art", and teaching chess has been advocated as a way of enhancing mental prowess.

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The position of the pieces at the start of a game of chess.
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A typical Staunton-design chess set and clock.


[edit] Gameplay

For a simple demonstration of the gameplay, see sample chess game.
Name Letter Picture
Pawn P Image:Chess pll44.pngImage:Chess pdl44.png
Knight N Image:Chess nll44.pngImage:Chess ndl44.png
Bishop B Image:Chess bll44.pngImage:Chess bdl44.png
Rook R Image:Chess rll44.pngImage:Chess rdl44.png
Queen Q Image:Chess qll44.pngImage:Chess qdl44.png
King K Image:Chess kll44.pngImage:Chess kdl44.png

[edit] Overview

Chess is played on a square board of eight rows (called ranks and denoted with numbers 1 to 8) and eight columns (called files and denoted with letters a to h) of squares. The colors of the sixty-four squares alternate between light and dark, and are referred to as "light squares" and "dark squares".

Each player begins the game with sixteen pieces which can move in defined directions, and in some instances, limited range, and can remove (capture) other pieces from the board: each player's pieces comprise eight pawns, two knights, two bishops, two rooks, one queen and one king. One player controls the white pieces and the other player controls the black pieces; the player that controls white is always the first player to move. The players alternate moving one piece at a time (with one important exception) to either an unoccupied square, or one occupied by an opponent's piece, capturing it. With one exception (en passant), all pieces capture opponent's pieces by moving to the square that the opponent's piece occupies.

When a king is under direct attack by one (or possibly two) of the opponent's pieces, the player is said to be in check. When in check, only moves that remove the king from attack are permitted. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent; this occurs when the opponent's king is in check, and there are no moves that remove the king from attack. Normally a checkmate will require the cooperation of several pieces, but can also be achieved with only one, if the king is blocked by other pieces (e.g. a back rank checkmate). A player who deems checkmate is inevitable may concede the game (resign) to the other player. A drawn result (a tie) is also possible.

[edit] Rules

Main article: Rules of chess

When a game begins, one player controls the sixteen white pieces while the other uses the sixteen black pieces. The colors are chosen either by a friendly agreement, by a game of chance such as pick-a-hand, or by a tournament director. The first player, referred to as White, always moves first and therefore has a slight advantage over the second player, referred to as Black. The chessboard is placed so that each player has a white square in the near right hand corner, and the pieces are set out as shown in the diagram, with each queen on a square that matches its color.

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Moves of a pawn; Pc6 can move to c7 or take one of black pieces; Ph5 can take en passant the black Pg5 if the last Black move was g7-g5

Each kind of chess piece moves a different way.

  • The king can move only one square horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. The player can not make any move that would place his king in check. Once in the game, each king is allowed to make a special double move, to castle. Castling consists of moving the king two squares towards a rook, then moving the rook onto the square over which the king crossed. Castling is only permissible if all of the following conditions hold:
  1. The player must never have moved the king;
  2. The player must never have moved the rook involved in castling;
  3. There must be no pieces between the king and the rook;
  4. The king may not currently be in check, nor may the king pass through squares that are under attack by enemy pieces. As with any move, castling is illegal if it would place the king in check.
  5. The king and the rook must be on the same rank (to exclude castling with a promoted pawn).
  • The rook moves any number of vacant squares vertically or horizontally (it is also involved in the king's special move of castling);
  • The bishop moves any number of vacant squares in any direction diagonally;
  • The queen is a combination of the rook and bishop - it can move any number of vacant squares diagonally, horizontally, or vertically;
  • The knight can jump over occupied squares and moves two spaces horizontally and one space vertically or vice versa, making an "L" shape. A knight in the middle of the board has eight squares to which it can move. Note that every time a knight moves, it changes square color.
  • Pawns have the most complex rules of movement:
  • A pawn can move forward one square, if that square is unoccupied. If it has not moved yet, the pawn has the option of moving two squares forward, if both squares in front of the pawn are unoccupied. A pawn cannot move backward.
  • When such an initial two square advance is made that puts that pawn horizontally adjacent to an opponent's pawn, the opponent's pawn can capture that pawn "en passant" as if it moved forward only one square rather than two, but only on the immediately subsequent move.
  • Pawns are the only pieces that capture differently than they move. They can capture an enemy piece on either of the two spaces adjacent to the space in front of them (i.e., the two squares diagonally in front of them), but cannot move to these spaces if they are vacant.
  • If a pawn advances all the way to its eighth rank, it is then promoted (converted) to a queen, rook, bishop, or knight of the same color. In practice, the pawn is almost always promoted to a queen.

With the exception of the knight, pieces cannot jump over each other. One's own pieces ("friendly pieces") cannot be passed if they are in the line of movement, and a friendly piece can never replace another friendly piece. Enemy pieces cannot be passed, but they can be "captured". When a piece is captured (or taken), the attacking piece replaces the enemy piece on its square (en passant being the only exception). The captured piece is thus removed from the game and may not be returned to play for the remainder of the game.<ref>Note, however, that a captured piece is often used as a "new" piece, following the promotion of a pawn. The new piece is nevertheless regarded distinct from the original captured piece; it is simply used for convenience. Moreover, the player's choice by promotion is not restricted to pieces that have been captured previously. FIDE Laws of Chess, 3.7e</ref> The king cannot be captured, only put in check. If a player is unable to get the king out of check, checkmate results, with the loss of the game.

Chess games do not have to end in checkmate — either player may resign if the situation looks hopeless. Games also may end in a draw (tie). A draw can occur in several situations, including draw by agreement, stalemate, threefold repetition of a position, the fifty move rule, or a draw by impossibility of checkmate (usually because of insufficient material to checkmate).

The international rules of chess are described in more detail in the FIDE Handbook, section Laws of Chess.<ref>World Chess Federation. FIDE Laws of Chess. Retrieved 30 November 2006.</ref>

[edit] Time control

Main article: Time control

Besides the usual casual game without exact timing, there are other ways to play chess, used mostly by club and professional players. Today, the standard tournament or match games are always played with a chess clock and the timing ranges from long games played up to seven hours to shorter rapid chess games lasting usually 30 minutes or one hour per game. Even shorter is blitz chess with a time control of three to fifteen minutes for each player and bullet chess (under three minutes). If the player's time runs out, he loses.

[edit] Notation for recording moves

Main article: Chess notation
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Algebraic chess notation

Chess games and positions are recorded using a chess notation, most often the algebraic chess notation. The abbreviated (or short) algebraic notation generally records moves in the format abbreviation of the piece moved - file where it moved - rank where it moved, e.g. Qg5 means "Queen moved to file g and rank 5 (that is, to the field g5). If there are two pieces of the same type, which can move to the same field, one more letter or number is added to indicate the file or rank from which the piece moved, e.g. Ngf3 means "Knight from the file g moved to the field f3". Letter P indicating pawns is usually dropped, so that e4 means "Pawn moved to the field e4".

The "Scholar's mate"

If the piece captures, "x" is inserted behind the abbreviation of the piece, e.g. Bxf3 means "Bishop captured on f3". When a pawn makes a capture, the file from which the pawn departed is used in place of a piece initial. For example, exd5 (pawn on the e-file captures the piece on d5). If a pawn moves to its last rank, achieving promotion, the piece chosen is indicated after the move, for example e1Q. Castling is indicated by the special notations 0-0 for kingside castling and 0-0-0 for queenside. A move which places the opponent's king in check usually has the notation "+" added. Checkmate can be indicated "#" (some use "++"). At the end of the game, "1-0" means "White won", "0-1" means "Black won" and "½-½" indicates draw.

Chess moves can be commented by punctuation. For example ! indicates a good move, !! an excellent move, ? a mistake, ?? a blunder, !? an interesting move that may not be best or ?! a dubious move, but not easily refuted.

For example, one variant of a simple trap known as the Scholar's mate, animated in the picture rights, can be recorded:
1. e4 e5
2. Qh5?! Nc6
3. Bc4 Nf6??
4. Qxf7# 1-0

[edit] History

[edit] Predecessors

Main article: Origins of chess
Image:Youth at chess with suitors - Haft Awrang.jpg
A Persian youth playing chess with two suitors. A form of chess was played in Persia as early as the 3rd century.

Many countries claim to have invented chess in some incipient form. The most commonly held view is that chess originated in India,<ref>H.J.R. Murray (1913). A History of Chess. Benjamin Press (originally published by Oxford University Press). ISBN 0-936-317-01-9.</ref> since the Arabic, Persian, Greek, Portuguese and Spanish words for chess are all derived from the Sanskrit game Chaturanga. In addition, in the past only India had all three animals, horse, camel and elephant, in its cavalry, which represent knight, bishop and rook in chess. The present version of chess played throughout the world ultimately derives from a version of Chaturanga that was played in India around the 6th century. It is believed that the Persians subsequently created a more recognizable version of the game called Shatranj.

Another theory exists that chess arose from the similar game of Xiangqi (Chinese chess), or at least a predecessor thereof, existing in China since the 2nd century BC.<ref>David H. Li (1998). The Genealogy of Chess. Premier Pub. Co. ISBN 0-963-785-22-2.</ref> Scholars who have favored this theory include Joseph Needham and David H. Li.

Chess eventually spread westward to Europe and eastward as far as Japan, spawning variants as it went. The game spread throughout the Muslim world after the Islamic conquest of Persia. When it entered the Muslim world, the names of its pieces largely retained their Persian forms but its name became shatranj, which continued in Spanish as ajedrez and in Greek as zatrikion, but in most of Europe it was replaced by versions of the Persian word shāh = "king".

Chess eventually reached Russia via Mongolia, where it was played at the beginning of the 7th century. It was introduced into the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors in the 10th century, and described in a famous 13th century manuscript covering chess, backgammon, and dice named the Libro de los juegos.

[edit] Origins of the modern game (1450—1850)

Early on, the pieces in shatranj - the predecessor of the European chess - had limited movement; elephants (bishops) could only move by jumping exactly two spaces diagonally, the counsellor (queen) could move only one space diagonally, pawns could not move two spaces on their first move, and there was no castling.

By the end of the 15th century, the modern rules for the basic moves had been adopted in Italy: pawns gained the option of moving two squares on their first move and the en passant capture therewith, bishops acquired their modern move, and the queen was made the most powerful piece; consequently modern chess was referred to as "Queen's Chess" or "Mad Queen Chess".<ref>Raymond A Collett. Early Chess. Retrieved 30 November 2006.</ref> The game in Europe since that time has been almost the same as is played today.<ref>The current rules were finalized in the early 19th century, except for the exact conditions for a draw. See Stalemate#History of the stalemate rule.</ref>

Chess, with its new rules, started to develop a theory. Early masters of the 16th and 17th century like Portuguese Pedro Damiano, Italians Giovanni Leonardo Di Bona, Giulio Cesare Polerio and Gioacchino Greco or Spanish priest Ruy López de Segura developed elements of some chess openings, e.g. Italian Game, King's Gambit or Ruy Lopez, and started to analyze simple endgames.

In the 18th century the centre of European chess life moved from South-European countries to France. The two most important French masters were François-André Danican Philidor, a musician by profession, who discovered the importance of pawns for chess strategy, and later Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais who won a famous series of matches with the strongest British master of the time, Alexander McDonnell from Ireland, in 1834.<ref>Louis Charles Mahe De La Bourdonnai. Retrieved 30 November 2006.</ref>

Original Staunton chess pieces by Nathaniel Cook from 1849, left to right: pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen, and king.

During the 19th century, chess organization developed quickly. Many chess clubs, chess books and chess journals appeared. There were correspondence matches between cities, for example London Chess Club vs Edinburgh Chess Club in 1824.<ref>London Chess Club. Retrieved 30 November 2006.</ref> Chess problems, at the top level composed for example by Bernhard Horwitz, Josef Kling or Samuel Loyd, became regular part of 19th century newspapers. In the mid of the century, the first comprehensive manual of chess theory appeared, Handbuch des Schachspiels (Handbook of Chess) written by German masters Paul Rudolf von Bilguer and Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa and first published in 1843.

[edit] Birth of a sport (1850—1945)

The "Immortal game" Anderssen-Kieseritzky 1851

The first modern chess tournament was held in London in 1851 and was surprisingly won by German Adolf Anderssen, relatively unknown by the time. Anderssen was hailed as the leading chess master and his brilliant, energetic — but from today's viewpoint strategically shallow — attacking style became typical for the time.<ref>Chess history. Retrieved 30 November 2006.</ref> Sparkling games like Anderssen's Immortal game or Morphy's Opera game — both short casual games with many sacrifices — were regarded as the highest possible summon of the chess art.

Deeper insight into the nature of chess battle came with two younger players. American Paul Morphy, an extraordinary chess prodigy, won over all important competitors including Anderssen during his short chess career between 1857 and 1863. Morphy won not only because he was able to attack brilliantly, but also because of the strategical soundness of his moves — he intuitively knew how to prepare the attack in advance. This secret was later re-invented and described by another strong master and theoretician, Prague-born Wilhelm Steinitz, who later settled in Vienna, in London and died in the USA.

Image:Wilhelm Steinitz2.jpg
Wilhelm Steinitz, the first World Chess Champion

Besides his theoretical successes, Steinitz founded another important tradition: His won match against the leading German master Johannes Zukertort in 1886 is regarded as the first official World Chess Championship, and Steinitz the first champion. He lost his crown in 1894 to much younger German mathematician Emanuel Lasker, who maintained this title for 27 years, the longest tenure of all World Champions.

The prodigy from Cuba José Raúl Capablanca (World champion 1921—1927), who ended the German-speaking dominance in chess, loved simple positions and endgames and was very hard to beat — he lost no single tournament game during eight years around 1920. His follower was Russian-French Alexander Alekhine, a strong attacking player, who died as the World champion in 1946, having lost the title for a short time to Dutch player Max Euwe, but regaining it again.

Between the two World wars, chess was revolutionized by the new theoretical school of so-called hypermodernists like Aron Nimzowitsch or Richard Réti. They denied simple principles of older positional school of Steinitz and Tarrasch and advocated controlling the centre of the board with distant pieces rather than with pawns, thus inviting the opponent to occupy the centre with pawns which can then become objects of attack.

Since the end of 19th century, the number of annually held master tournaments and matches quickly grew. In 1914, the title of chess grandmaster was first formally conferred by Russian Tsar Nicholas II, who awarded it to five finalists of a tournament in Saint Petersburg (Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch and Marshall). This tradition was later continued by FIDE, The Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation, founded in 1924 in Paris. In 1927, a World Champion title for women was established, whose first bearer was Czech-English master Vera Menchik.

The first Soviet World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik

[edit] Post-war era (1945 and later)

After the death of Alekhine, a new World champion was sought in a tournament of elite players ruled by FIDE, who since then controlled the title for decades. The winner of the 1948 tournament, Russian Mikhail Botvinnik, started an era of Soviet dominance in the chess world — since then until the end of Soviet Union, there was only one champion other than Soviet, American Robert James Fischer (champion 1972-1975). All others — Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov — were Soviet citizens.

In 1993, Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short broke with FIDE to organize their own match for the title. They complained of corruption and a lack of professionalism within FIDE, and formed a competing Professional Chess Association (PCA). Since then there have been two simultaneous World Champions and World Championships: the PCA champion extending the Steinitzian tradition in which the current champion plays a challenger in match format (a series of many games); the other following FIDE's new format of a tournament with many players competing. Reunification of the two lineages happened in 2006 in the FIDE World Chess Championship 2006 when PCA World Champion Vladimir Kramnik won over the FIDE World Chess Champion Veselin Topalov and become the undisputed World Chess Champion.

[edit] Strategy and tactics

Main article: Chess strategy and tactics

[edit] Fundamentals of strategy

When taking and trading pieces, the chess piece point values become important. Valuations differ slightly from book to book, but generally, taking pawns to be worth one point, knights and bishops are worth three points each, rooks are worth five points, and queens are worth nine points. Since the king's loss ends the game, it is invaluable (and the king is never traded). However, in the endgame when there are few pieces left on the board and there is little danger of checkmate, the fighting value of the king is equivalent to about four points. The actual value and importance of a piece will vary based upon its position and the stage of the game. If a player performs a sacrifice (e.g. exchange sacrifice), he is choosing to ignore the standard valuation of his pieces for positional or tactical gains. The beginning player should be aware that points are not an inherent part of the game; there is no scoring and chess was played long before the idea of assigning points to pieces. Instead, points are used by a player to consider whether he will come out materially better than his opponent in an exchange of pieces. For instance, to lose two pawns (two points) in taking the opponent's knight (three points) puts one ahead in material by one point. Such an advantageous exchange of pieces may, however, be a poor tactic if it leaves the opponent with an exploitable advantage in the way the pieces are positioned on the board.

A few common positional elements which high level chess players routinely must assess include pawn structure, king safety, space, and control of key squares and groups of squares (e.g. diagonals, open-files, dark or light squares, etc.). In addition, there are factors such as the two bishops that compensate each other's weaknesses.

[edit] Fundamentals of tactics

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The black knight on e6 is pinned to its king by the white bishop, and the white knight is pinned to the queen on b1 by the black rook. Note that the knight on b4 is still free to legally move, while the knight on e6 cannot legally move.

Chess combinations and traps do not appear out of thin air. Usually they are present because the opponent has certain weaknesses in his position. These types of weaknesses include: pinned pieces, overloaded pieces, weaknesses around the opponent's king, weak squares, unprotected pieces, weak color complexes, pieces not able to come back to defend the king, etc. The weaknesses can then be exploited with a chess combination that is often built out of a number of tactical "methods". Such weaknesses are often created in the opponent's position in the first place by threats, provocative moves, and generally strong positional play, etc.

Chess combinations often include a number of types of tactics which many middlegame books classify and provide examples. Such common tactical methods include pins, forks, skewers, discovered attacks (especially checks), zwischenzugs, deflections, decoys, sacrifices, forcing moves, undermining, overloading, interference and even "quiet moves".

A fork is a situation where a piece is moved such that two opposing pieces are attacked (forked) simultaneously. Often the other player will not be able to protect both of his pieces in one move. Pins are used to prevent the movement of an enemy piece by threatening any pieces behind it should it move. Skewers are a kind of reverse pin where the more valuable piece is placed in front of a less important one. A discovered attack (or revealed threat) is where the movement of one piece reveals a formerly blocked line of attack for another piece of the same color. For clarification, it should be noted that a "pin" is a tactic - the act of pinning the opponent's pieces. But a "pinned piece" is a specific type of weakness in the opponent's position, which when identified, can be exploited with a tactical combination.

[edit] Opening

Main article: Chess opening
Chess opening, the first 10 - 25 moves of the game, helps a player build up his position and prepare for the middlegame. Openings are often designed to take hold of the center of the board (e4, e5, d4 and d5), develop pieces, protect the king, and create a strong pawn structure. The classical school of chess expounds the virtues of occupying the center early using pawns and/or pieces, while chess hypermodernism advocates the control of the center not by using pawns but with distant pieces.

[edit] Middlegame

Main article: Middlegame

Most middlegame books recommend that once an assessment of the elements of the position has taken place, it is then recommended to try and form a plan to create an advantage. Once a plan is formulated, it is then recommended to try and ensure the plan is feasible through the process of checking concrete variations.

Great chess writer Aron Nimzowitsch outlined in the classic work My System a number of middlegame positional principles such as "rook on the seventh rank", "undermining the pawn chain", "restrain, blockade and destroy". This work has influenced generations of modern chess players in how they think in the middlegame.

[edit] Endgame

Main article: Endgame

During the endgame, pawns and kings become relatively more powerful pieces as both sides often try to promote their pawns. If one player has a large material advantage, checkmate may happen quickly in the endgame. If the game is relatively even, endgame techniques are essential. Controlling the tempo (time used by each move) becomes especially important when fewer pieces are left on the board. In some cases, a player will have a material advantage, but will not have enough material to force a checkmate. In this case, the game is a draw by insufficient material.

[edit] Competitive play

School chess tournament

[edit] Organization of competitions

Today, chess is an organized sport with structured international and national leagues, tournaments and congresses. Chess's international governing body is FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs). Most countries of the world have a national chess organization as well, who in turn are members of FIDE. FIDE is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), but the game of chess has not ever been part of the Olympic Summer or Winter Games. Chess does have its own Olympiad, held every two years as a team event.

Correspondence chess tournaments are usually played under the auspices of International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF). The ICCF awards its titles International Master, Senior International Master and Grandmaster — these are equivalent to similar titles awarded by FIDE for over-the-board chess.

The current World Chess Champion is Vladimir Kramnik, who won a match against Veselin Topalov in 2006.<ref>The World Champion is not necessarily the highest-rated player in the world. Topalov is in fact rated number one on the 2006 FIDE rating list. World Chess Federation. Top 100 Players October 2006. Retrieved 20 November 2006.</ref> In women's chess, the reigning Women's World Champion is Xu Yuhua from China. However, the world's highest rated female player Judit Polgar has never participated in the Women's World Chess Championship, instead preferring to compete with the leading men. Other competitions for individuals include the World Junior Chess Championship, the European Individual Championship and the National Chess Championships of countries around the world.

Regular team chess events include the Chess Olympiad and European Team Championship. The 37th Chess Olympiad in 2006 was held in Turin, Italy. Armenia won the gold in the men's event, and Ukraine took the top medal for the women.

The International Correspondence Chess Federation runs the World Correspondence Chess Championships both unrestricted and for women. The World Chess Solving Championship is both a team and an individual event.

Besides these top chess competitions, there are thousands of other chess tournaments, matches and festivals held around the world every year. The most popular would include Spain's Linares event, Monte Carlo's Melody Amber tournament, the Dortmund Sparkassen meeting and Wijk aan Zee's Corus tournament.

[edit] Titles and rankings

The best players can be awarded specific lifetime titles by the world chess organization FIDE:<ref> FIDE Manual about titles</ref>

  • International Grandmaster (short Grandmaster or GM) is awarded to world-class chess masters. Apart from World Champion, Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain. Before FIDE will confer the title on a player, the player must have an ELO chess rating (see below) of at least 2500 at one time and two favorable results (called norms) in tournaments involving other Grandmasters, including some from countries other than the applicant's. There are also other milestones a player can achieve to get the title, such as winning the World Junior Championship.
  • International Master (short IM). The conditions are similar to GM, but less demanding. The minimum rating for the IM title is 2400.
  • FIDE Master (short FM). The most usual way for a player to qualify for the FIDE Master title is by achieving a FIDE Rating of 2300 or more.
  • Candidate Master (short CM). Similar like FM, but with FIDE Rating at least 2200.

All these titles are open to both men and women. Separate gender-segregated titles, e.g. WGM for Woman Grandmaster, are also available. In 1991 Susan Polgar became the first woman to earn the GM title under the same conditions as the men, and these days most of the top 10 women hold the GM title.

International titles are also awarded to composers and solvers of chess problems, and to correspondence chess players (by the International Correspondence Chess Federation).

In order to rank players, FIDE, ICCF and national chess organizations use the Elo rating system developed by Arpad Elo. Elo is a statistical system based on assumption that the chess performance of each player in his games is a random variable. Arpad Elo thought of a player's true skill as the mean of that player's performance random variable and showed how to estimate the mean from results of player's games. The US Chess Federation implemented Elo's suggestions in 1960, and the system quickly gained recognition as being both fairer and more accurate than older systems and was adopted by FIDE in 1970.

The following analysis of the January 2006 FIDE rating list gives a rough impression of what a given FIDE rating means:

  • 19743 players in the world have a rating above 2200, and are usually associated with the Candidate Master title.
  • 1868 players have a rating between 2400 and 2499, most of whom have either the IM or the GM title.
  • 563 players have a rating between 2500 and 2599, most of whom have the GM title
  • 123 players have a rating between 2600 and 2699, all of whom have the GM title
  • 18 players have a rating between 2700 and 2799
  • Only Garry Kasparov of Russia, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, and Viswanathan Anand of India have ever had a rating of 2800 or above.

The highest ever FIDE rating was 2851, which Garry Kasparov had on the July 1999 and January 2000 lists. In the whole history of FIDE rating system, only 39 players (to April 2006), sometimes called "Super-grandmasters", have achieved a peak rating of 2700 or more. However, due to ratings inflation, nearly all of these are modern players: all but two of these achieved their peak rating after 1993.

[edit] Chess composition

Chess composition is the art of creating chess problems (these problems themselves are sometimes also called chess compositions), that is puzzles using chess pieces on a chess board. For instance, a position might be given with the instruction that white is to move first, and checkmate black in two moves against any possible defense. A person who creates such problems is known as a chess composer.

Richard Réti
Ostrauer Morgenzeitung
4 December 1921
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White to play and draw

One of the most famous chess studies ever composed. It seems impossible to catch the advanced black pawn, while the white pawn can be easily stopped by the black king. The idea of the solution is to advance to both pawns at the same time using specific properties of the chess geometry. 1. Kg7! h4 2. Kf6 Kb6 (or 2. ... h3 3. Ke7 and the white king can support its own pawn) 3. Ke5!! (and now the white king comes just in time to the white pawn, or catches the black one) 3. ... h3 4. Kd6 draw.

Most chess problems exhibit the following features:

  • The position is composed - that is, it has not been taken from an actual game, but has been invented for the specific purpose of providing a problem.
  • There is a specific stipulation, that is, a goal to be achieved; for example, to checkmate black within a specified number of moves.
  • There is a theme (or combination of themes) that the problem has been composed to illustrate: chess problems typically instantiate particular ideas. Many of these themes have their own names, often by persons who used them first, for example Novotny or Lacny theme.
  • The problem exhibits economy in its construction: no greater force is employed than that required to render the problem sound (that is, to guarantee that the problem's intended solution is indeed a solution and that it is the problem's only solution).
  • The problem has aesthetic value. Problems are experienced not only as puzzles but as objects of beauty. This is closely related to the fact that problems are organized to exhibit clear ideas in as economical a manner as possible.

There are many various types of chess problems. The two most important are:

  • Directmates: white to move first and checkmate black within a specified number of moves against any defence. These are often referred to as "mate in n", where n is the number of moves within which mate must be delivered - for example "mate in three" (a three-mover).
  • Studies: orthodox problems in which the stipulation is that white to play must win or draw. Almost all studies are endgame positions.

Chess composition is a distinct branche of chess sport and various tournaments (or tourneys) exist for both the composition and solving of chess problems. The World Chess Composing Tournament (WCCT) is a formal tourney for national teams organised by the Permanent Commission of the FIDE for Chess Composition (PCCC). PCCC also organizes the World Chess Solving Championship. Just as in over-the-board play, the titles International Grandmaster, International Master and FIDE Master are awarded by FIDE for especially distinguished problem and study composers and solvers. Qualification for the composer titles is determined on the basis of the number of problems or studies a composer published in the FIDE Albums. These albums are collections of the best problems and studies composed in a particular three-year period, as selected by FIDE-appointed judges. For solvers, the GM and IM titles can only be gained by successful participating in the official World Chess Solving Championship (WCSC).

[edit] Variants

Moreover, there are numerous chess variants, i.e. forms of chess where the game is played with a different board, special fairy pieces or different rules. D.B. Pritchard, the author of Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, estimates that there are more than two thousand chess variants,<ref>D.Pritchard (2000). Popular Chess Variants. Bastford Chess Books. ISBN 0-7134-8578-7.</ref> confining the number to published ones.

Chess variants can be divided into three groups:

[edit] Mathematics and computers

Main articles: Computer chess, List of mathematicians who studied chess

Game of chess is interesting also from the mathematical point of view. The number of legal positions in chess is estimated to be between 1043 (that is, 1 and 43 zeros) and 1050, with a game-tree complexity of approximately 10123. The game-tree complexity of chess was first calculated by Claude Shannon as 10120, a number known as the "Shannon number". Typically an average position has thirty to forty possible moves, but there may be as few as zero (in the case of checkmate or stalemate) or as many as 218.

The most important matematical challenge of chess is the development of algorithms which can play chess. The idea of creating a chess playing machine dates back to the eighteenth century. Around 1769, the chess playing automaton called The Turk became famous before being exposed as a hoax. Serious trials based in automatons such as El Ajedrecista were too complex and limited to be useful.

Image:RS Chess Computer.JPG
1990s chess-playing computer

Since the advent of the digital computer in the 1950s, chess enthusiasts and computer engineers have built, with increasing degrees of seriousness and success, chess-playing machines and computer programs. The groundbreaking paper on computer chess entitled "Programming a Computer for Playing Chess" was written in 1950 by Shannon.

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) held the first major chess tournament for computers, the 1st United States Computer Chess Championship, in September 1970. CHESS 3.0, a chess program from Northwestern University, won the championship. At first considered only a curiosity, the best chess playing programs, for example Rybka or Hydra, have become extremely strong. Nevertheless, from the point of view of artificial intelligence, chess-playing programs are relatively simple: they essentially explore huge numbers of potential future moves by both players and apply an evaluation function to the positions that result.

Garry Kasparov, then ranked number one in the world, played a six-game match against IBM's chess computer Deep Blue in February 1996. Deep Blue won the first game, but Kasparov convincingly won the match by winning three games and drawing two. The six-game rematch in May 1997 was won by the machine (informally dubbed "Deeper Blue") which was subsequently retired by IBM.<ref>Deep Blue — Kasparov Match. Retrieved 30 November 2006.</ref>

With huge databases of past games and high analytical ability, computers are also important in modern chess as seconds. Additionally, Internet sites such as Free Internet Chess Server and Kurnik allow people to find and play opponents all over the world.

[edit] Place in Western culture

Image:Meister der Manessischen Liederhandschrift 004.jpg
Noble chess players, Germany, c. 1320

[edit] Pre-modern

In the Middle Ages, chess was a part of noble culture, it was used as a mean of teaching war strategy and was dubbed "King's Game". Gentleman is "to be meanly seene in the play at Chestes," says the overview at the begin of Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier (1528, English 1561 by Sir Thomas Hoby), but chess should not be gentleman's main passion. Castiglione explains it further:

And what say you to the game at chestes?

It is truely an honest kynde of enterteynmente and wittie, quoth Syr Friderick. But me think it hath a fault, whiche is, that a man may be to couning at it, for who ever will be excellent in the playe of chestes, I beleave he must beestowe much tyme about it, and applie it with so much study, that a man may assoone learne some noble scyence, or compase any other matter of importaunce, and yet in the ende in beestowing all that laboure, he knoweth no more but a game. Therfore in this I beleave there happeneth a very rare thing, namely, that the meane is more commendable, then the excellency.<ref>The Second Book of the Courtier, translated by Sir Thomas Hoby (1561) as edited by Walter Raleigh for David Nutt, Publisher, London, 1900</ref>

Beautiful chess sets used by the aristocracy of the time are mostly lost, but some of the surviving examples, like the Lewis chessmen, are of high artistic quality.

At the same time, chess was often used as a basis of sermons on morality. An example is Liber de moribus hominum et officiis nobilium sive super ludo scacchorum ('Book of the customs of men and the duties of nobles or the Book of Chess') written by an Italian Dominican monk Jacobus de Cessolis circa 1300. The popular work was translated into many other languages (first printed edition at Utrecht in 1473) and was the basis for William Caxton's The Game and Playe of the Chesse (1474), one of the first books printed in English. Different chess pieces are used as metapher for different classes of people in this tradition, and human duties are derived from the rules of the game or from visual properties of the chess pieces.

Image:UigChessmen SelectionOfKings.jpg
Two kings and two queens from the Lewis chessmen at the British Museum.
The knyght ought to be made alle armed upon an hors in suche wyse that he haue an helme on his heed and a spere in his ryght hande/ and coueryd wyth his sheld/ a swerde and a mace on his lyft syde/ Cladd wyth an hawberk and plates to fore his breste/ legge harnoys on his legges/ Spores on his heelis on his handes his gauntelettes/ his hors well broken and taught and apte to bataylle and couerid with his armes/ whan the knyghtes ben maad they ben bayned or bathed/ that is the signe that they shold lede a newe lyf and newe maners/ also they wake alle the nyght in prayers and orysons vnto god that he wylle gyue hem grace that they may gete that thynge that they may not gete by nature/ The kynge or prynce gyrdeth a boute them a swerde in signe/ that they shold abyde and kepe hym of whom they take theyr dispenses and dignyte.<ref>William Caxton, The Game and Playe of the Chesse, The fourth chapitre of the seconde book treteth of the ordre of cheualerye and knyghthode and of her offices and maners</ref>

On the other side, political and religious authorities in many places forbade chess as frivolous or as a sort of gambling.

Known it the circles of clerics, students and merchants, chess entered also in the popular culture of Middle Ages. An example is the 209th song of Carmina Burana from 13th century, which starts with the names of chess pieces, Roch, pedites, regina...<ref>Text from Bibliotheca Augustana, retrieved November 2, 2006</ref>

[edit] Modern times

To the Age of Enlightenment, chess appeared mainly as the mean of self-improvement. Benjamin Franklin, in his article "The Morals of Chess" (1750), wrote:

"The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess then, we may learn:

1st, Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action ...

2nd, Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: - the relation of the several Pieces, and their situations; ...

3rd, Caution, not to make our moves too hastily...."<ref>The whole text is at Retrieved 2 December 2006</ref>

With these or similar hopes, chess is taught to children in schools over the world today and used in armies to train minds of cadets and officers.

Moreover, chess is often depicted in the arts, used for example as a metaphor of a struggle of two, as a symbol of cold logic, or - in the spirit of mediaeval moralists - as an allegory of society's life. Important works, where chess plays a key role, range from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll over The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig to The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov.

Chess is also present in the contemporary popular culture. For example, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter plays "Wizard's Chess" while the characters of Star Trek prefer "Tri-Dimensional Chess" and the hero of Searching for Bobby Fischer struggles against adopting the aggressive and misanthropic views of a real chess Grandmaster.

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

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